Hammered.

July 4, 2019

 

For me growing up, Hammer Horror was a huge thing. It was almost mythic, in fact. I can remember being allowed to stay up late and watch them. They weren't scary, they were freaking hilarious, but they were also fun and enjoyable and campy in a way that nothing else quite was. Undoubtedly they've played a large part in my overall cinematic "construction" and I still look on them with glee now, equal parts nostalgia painted beauty and joyful silliness.

 

One of the things I loved most about Hammer was how many of them there were. There was a sense of wonderment in the idea that a group of British filmmakers and actors all got together and made these movies consistently. I loved the fact that they were British too, as though one day I might be able to grow up and join them (although they were long since gone by the time I was watching them late night on TV). It was a big thing for me.

 

And as I got older that sense has never really gone away. There's always something great about knowing you can go to a certain studio or a certain group and get some kind of consistent, albeit weird and cheap as hell, quality.

 

It's part of what made Hammer so great, for me.

 

But now, here I am, 30 years old, and... there's no Hammer. I mean, hell, there's not even a British film industry. I mean, not really. We've become a nation of for-hire workers, propping up big American studio productions but never really producing much of our own, at least in terms of cinematic outings. And the genre seems to have been pulled from it. Occasionally we'll get a great one, but we're not recognised as being horror makers now. It's all just sort of... gone away.

 

I get that times change and the world changes with it, but doesn't that seem like a shame? Especially now in the age of the internet. And, okay, there's Ben Wheatley and Jen Handorf, there's Lawrie Brewster and his Hex Studios, and there's a boat load of independent horror on Amazon Prime and Google Play and whatever, but there's no Hammer. There's no singular entity making movies and pushing them. Living within the genre.

 

In America they have Blumhouse and they have A24, both are producing interesting genre work, both market themselves toward that kind of thing. Over here we've got, what...? Bugger all. It's frustrating.

 

Maybe the market just isn't there anymore. Maybe it's too difficult to reproduce that kind of thing on a smaller scale these days. With streaming sites now the norm, and the cinemas jam packed full of blockbusters and little else, maybe it's just not possible for a little studio to rise up and do what Hammer sort of did. But that's sad.

 

I know they tried to bring Hammer back not that long ago, and that's a whole other topic, but it's also not really the same thing, they Americanised it and went big-budget(ish). It wasn't what it was.

 

I'm not saying I'd like to see Hammer make a return, necessarily, I'm just saying I'd like to see British horror make a return. I'd like to see it become a cultural thing again, recognised among the big boys. I'd like to see more British horror films, and more British creatives working together in that form. I'd like to see genre return to Britain. We were great at it. And we still are. Why aren't we doing it?

 

Then, maybe, my kids can watch it on TV. I can let them stay up and stream it and they can get that same sense that maybe, but maybe, they could join them too one day.

 

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© Alex Secker 2018